Amid massive farmer protests in the national capital over the agriculture law, a meeting was held between farmer union leaders and the Centre on Tuesday during which the government offered setting up a committee. However, the representatives of 35 agitating organisations rejected the Centre's offer during their marathon meeting with three union ministers.
Speaking to Zee News, after the meeting, the farmer leaders said, "Most of the farmer leaders have opposed the government's proposal to form a committee and told them that their protests will continue till the government does not withdraw the law."
During the deliberations, Union Minister of Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar proposed to constitute an expert committee to put forth the issues of farmers so as to resolve them with mutual consent but "the representative of the Farmers Union suggested that all the representatives will attend a further round of discussions with the government to resolve the matter amicably".
The Centre, during the interaction, suggested the representatives of Farmers Union to identify the specific issues related to Farm Reform Acts and share with the government on December 2 (Wednesday) for consideration. These issues will be discussed during the fourth round of meeting to be held on December 3 (Thursday).
An official release said, "It was assured that the Government of India is always committed to protecting the interest of farmers and is always open for discussions for farmers’ welfare."
Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister of Railways & Commerce Piyush Goyal and Minister of State, Ministry of Commerce and Industries Som Prakash interacted with the representatives of Farmers Organizations of Punjab at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.
They again explained the benefits of Farm Reform Acts to the representatives of the Farmers’ Unions. Various issues related to Farm Reform Acts were discussed at length and talks were held in a cordial atmosphere.
The Agriculture Minister cordially welcomed the representatives of Farmers Organizations of Punjab and emphasized that the government is fully committed towards the welfare of farmers and agriculture development is always on the top priority for the government.
However, another round of meeting got underway later in the evening at the Agriculture Ministry with representatives of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), news agency PTI reported quoting officials. BKU leader Naresh Tikait also said another delegation of farmer leaders was meeting the government at 7 pm. He said issues other than the recently enacted farm laws are also likely to be discussed, and mentioned power tariffs for farmers among the probable talking points.
The meeting was expected to be attended by representatives from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Uttarakhand, Tikait told reporters at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border while on his way for the meeting. This meeting began soon after the end of the first one with a much larger group at Vigyan Bhawan, where the farmer representatives were unanimous in seeking repeal of the three laws that they have been terming as being against the interest of the farm community.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre's farm laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) is one of the largest blocks of farmers who have been protesting against the new laws. Heavy security arrangements were in place around the meeting venue. Hours before the meeting, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Tomar and Goyal, along with BJP chief J P Nadda, had held marathon discussions over the farmers' protest against the Centre's new agriculture reform laws.
Peaceful sit-ins by farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, continued at the Singhu and Tikri borders with no untoward incident reported after Friday's violence, while the numbers of protestors swelled at the Ghazipur border on Monday. The opposition parties too stepped up the pressure, asking the Centre to "respect the democratic struggle" of the farmers and repeal the laws.
An earlier meeting on November 13 had failed to give any breakthrough and the next one was originally scheduled for December 3, but it got advanced due to the ongoing protests on Delhi borders.